Monday, 14 March 2011

A Theory of Creation

“I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability.”
~ Oscar Wilde

If the aforementioned quote is true, then it must also be deemed a possibility that this overabundance of self-importance when it comes to creation must also have been passed onto man. Some of the most pompous, and self-obsessed people that I have ever met are people who create art. They think that anything they slap down on canvas or paper should be awarded a prize, that the world should bow down in the light of their brilliance, and they should subsequently be instantly rich in gratification.

Even if their work is good on a technical level, I feel that they’re missing the point of creating something. Using their artistic talents to create art is not about the fame or the money; it’s about expressing yourself in a concrete way. Yes, you are “getting your ideas out there” for the masses to see (and duly judge), but it really isn’t about the audience, it’s about the creator. Worrying about how the audience is viewing your work, and focusing too much on that aspect is only going to make the artist in question stop creating for themselves. I’m sorry to say it, but this eventually makes artists become sell-outs, because they’re only working for the commission, and not for what they truly believe in.

re-drawn sketch of the lost original
When the I create something I don’t care if anyone else thinks its pretty or thought provoking. I’m only concerned with how the piece affects me. I cared a little more about my audience in high school, since I was creating art to be graded for a class, but I came to a point in grade 10, where I felt that my technical abilities  spoke for themselves, and I started to create more artwork that reflected me as a person. The turning point was a project that was loosely based on the medieval technique of illuminating manuscripts. We were assigned to take a letter from the alphabet, and create a picture around and inside the letter that reflected an overall idea. I, like most people, chose to do my first initial, but my subject matter was far from anything standard. I used a portrait of a phoenix as the background, and then filled the hollow letter with symbols of my spiritual beliefs, which at the time included a pentagram, and items that symbolized the four elements. My teacher had no objections to the controversial nature of my symbols, but I had not a few classmates react in surprise at the pentagram motif displayed front and centre. But I didn’t care what they said; on a technical level my drawing was beautiful, and the imagery expressed who I was.

Even more than people who work in physical art, those who work in digital media (ie photography) have even more inflated egos., and every hipster who owns a decent camera thinks that their snapshots are worthy of a gallery show. Seriously guys, composition is something you learn in the first week of any type of art class , and for those of us who do it well, we don’t have to be taught. The majority of their “talents” I find are also due to the plethora of digital editing software that is now available. Just because you  change the colour balance and contrast of your photos does not make them “art.” Anyone can screw around with Photoshop and come up with something interesting. God knows, I use it to edit most of my photos, but just because I can, doesn’t mean that every photo I take becomes a piece of art. Some are just photos that I wanted more visually appealing. And really, the best photos that I’ve taken don’t need editing, whether it’s to change the composition or the photo itself. See the mangled crab photo below? I took it with my little Canon Powershot (which is an awesome camera, but by no means anything professional), and didn’t edit a thing. That composition, and the colour tone is exactly what I saw when I was on the beach that day. It just happened that the shot turned out perfectly. And yeah, it’s a picture of a mangled crab, but I love how it turned out, and someday I’m going to frame the shot and put it up on my wall. So there!

My biggest problem with artists is those who go to art school, and think that therefore they’re professional artists. This is complete bullshit. Art cannot be learned. Technique can be improved through classes, practice, and criticism, but the real heart and soul of art cannot be taught. If you have no latent ability, taking a course or two in from the visual arts department (or even a whole degree) isn’t going to change the reality of you not having anything to build from. If you have the talent, then use it. Don’t waste your time taking classes trying to learn how to be what society deems an artist, just go out and BE an artist. Having credentials is not going to help your ability to blend colours and put lines on paper; it will only make some social connections within the art world, which you can do by making an effort to integrate yourself into the artistic community. As someone who took art classes in high school, and who wanted to be an artist professionally before I made more realistic goals, the transition to art at a university level was astounding. In high school it was expected that we were working on our technique and not so much our ideas. Yet, when I took my first university art class, we were still working on technique, and basic technique at that (seriously I know how to draw lines of different thickness…), it was a huge disappointment. I told myself that I would never again waste my time and my abilities on this kind of drivel. I vowed that I would keep drawing, painting, and taking photographs, but I would never again do so in such a stifled atmosphere. And so far, I’m happy to say that while I haven’t become a professional artist on any level, I still enjoy creating, and when I sit down to draw or paint something I am always pleased with the result, even if other people aren’t. 

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